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Government to consider compensation for mums of unborn babies

Richard Noone
The Daily Telegraph
October 27, 2010 12:02PM

THE NSW Government will consider compensating women who lose their unborn child as a result of a criminal act.

But a review of legislation known as Byron’s Law stops short of recommending a specific charge – such as manslaughter – to be levelled against an offender accused of the criminal death an unborn child.

Attorney General John Hatzistergos will release the findings of the Campbell Report in Parliament today.

Retired Supreme court judge Michael Campbell was appointed to head up a review into the laws surrounding the criminal death of unborn children after a pregnant Central Coast woman was struck by an alleged drug-affected driver on Christmas Day.

Young mum Brodie Donegan was 32-weeks pregnant when she went for a walk before lunch and was just metres from her driveway at Ourimbahwhen the driver’s car left the road and slammed into her.

Ms Donegan suffered horrific injuries and despite the efforts of surgeons her daughter Zoe was stillborn as a result of the collision.

The driver, Justine Hampson, 40, was charged with driving under the influence of drugs and dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm.

She is still before the courts and has yet to enter a plea.

The tragedy prompted the Government to review existing legislation known as Byron’s Law that enables police to charge an alleged offender with grievous bodily harm even if a woman suffers no other long term injury other than the death of her foetus.

The legislation was introduced following an earlier review by retired judge Mervyn Finlay into the death of Renee Shield’s unborn child Byron in a road-rage incident in 2001.

While the Campbell Report recommends amending the Victims Support and Rehabilitation Act 1995 to include the loss of a foetus – so as to provide compensation to victims who lose an unborn child – it does not recommend a specific charge recognising the rights on an unborn child.

“The Campbell Report concludes that the current offence provisions and sentences do allow the justice system to respond appropriately to criminal behaviour that leads to the death of a foetus,” Mr Hatzistergos said.

“For example, as a result of the 2005 legal change known as Byron’s Law, a person who deliberately inflicts grievous bodily harm upon a pregnant woman, causing the destruction of a foetus, faces 25 years in jail – the same maximum as manslaughter.

“The severity of the sentence gives recognition to the trauma suffered by expectant mothers who lose an unborn child as a result of being a victim of crime.”

Ms Donegan said she was disappointed the report failed to recommend a specific charge over her daughter’s death but said she was “grateful for the opportunity to participate in the review process”.

“All we wanted really was something positive to come out of it and help other families if they ever have to go through the same thing,” she said.

The report also recommends the Government establish a scheme to cover the funeral costs of a stillborn child lost as a result of a criminal act.

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